Sónar Festival concludes its 23rd edition in Barcelona, and is confirmed once again as a reference point for innovation in creativity, technology, music and industry, fields which are increasingly converging, producing explosive potential in a well-orchestrated encounter. In this edition of Sónar, centre stage was occupied by the artist and the creative process, followed in its every phase (reflected in the various sections which made up the structure of the festival: Congress, Area Expo, Live Performance. Experimentation, innovation, creativity, scientific research and business all run on the same tracks here, feeding off each other and nourishing visitors with energy and inspiration.
Over the years the festival has seen a constant increase in visitors and participants. Sónar 2016 closed its doors on a total of 115,000 visitors from 101 countries all over the world. The figure is increasing, and so is the quality. Indeed, enormous amounts of work go into renewing the format every year, making it more attractive as a show but also as a forum for exchange and learning. This is what provides the impetus to enrich the festival with numerous events (lectures, workshops and networking) geared to providing a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process; all happening within Sonar +D, the parallel event and growing as the beating heart of this great festival.
Among this year’s new features, Sonar+D launched the Start – up Garden by RICOH, a new format bringing together startup projects and investors from 12 countries, and culminating in the activation of 46 investment funds. This is an important lesson from a country which is dealing with the economic crisis by focusing – and not as a last resort – on the creative sector, valuing its economic potential, showing commitment to the building of synergy between industry and creativity and making plenty of space for young startups, beginning with the local.
An injection of energy and a lesson in life for everyone, beginning with Why We Play, the inaugural lecture by the eclectic Brian Eno, icon of more than one generation, who literally enchanted the audience on 16th June in the huge Fira de Barcelona auditorium. His words restored the ancient power of creativity and imagination to make the future concrete. Art is not a necessary thing, Eno tells us; everything the artist does is a choice rather than a necessity. The mission of art is to construct objects which can interact with the vision of a future society.
Art educates us. Just as children’s play is learning and growing in imagination, art is our toy. In this we can find the (open) answer to the title of the talk, Why we play? By playing, we imagine; and by doing this, we construct the future.
We tour the Fair with this message engraved on our hearts, and to these words – which so simply and clearly reached the most diverse audience imaginable – we find echoes in everything we see and hear.
Pioneers and stars of the audio-visual scene, such as Matthew Clark, Carsten Nicolai, Kodek 9, Jean-Michel Jarre; from the gaming industry, such as Minecraft’s Adam Clarke; representatives from scientific institutions like CERN – The European Organization of Nuclear Research and ALMA (the world’s largest astronomical observatory, based in Chile); companies like Google and many more succeed each other in the packed programme of talks. Each in its own way, and according to the various discussions occurring on different tables, confirms the importance of contact with reality, of craftsmanship, of education by reading, all essential ingredients for feeding the imagination, the foundation for the most innovative products of technology.
Creativity plays a starring role too in the configuration and reconfiguration of the data which shape today’s contemporary landscape, as a factor which often turns out to be key to scientific research itself. A case in point is the work of the duo Semiconductor, in which scientific data (on volcanoes, earthquakes etc) is visualised as forces for the transformation of the Earth in the Earthworks installation. Also The Timekeeper, an algorithmic test which can personalise a new song for the user on the basis of their musical tastes, created for the festival by the young team of Datastreamers in collaboration with Spotify, demonstrates how the organisation and visualisation of data is now increasingly important for finding our way in an informed manner.
A festival in which the presentation of the latest ideas in art and industry are accompanied by a call to reconquer an awareness of things. With this in mind, extensive space is devoted to the role of alternative internet platforms to those which inhabit the sphere of digital business; these feature in the conference within a conference, Decentralized.
In the Reality + D section, we marvelled at the new creations of virtual reality, such as the moving story of Allumete (Penrose Studios), which literally took us into the clouds for eighteen minutes, or Tilt Brush, the new Google tool for painting in space using virtual reality; meanwhile, Marketlab presented new technologies for the world of music, as well as projects that combine creativity with scientific and social entrepreneurship, like Little Sun, conceived by artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen to bring solar power to developing countries and create a social business in doing so.
With music and art, the spotlights were aimed at socially active artists: the creativity of the aforementioned Brian Eno, Anohni, John Luther Adams, Nino de elche + Los Voluble, Kodek 9, Jean Michel Jarre and Lady Leshurr craise important questions inherent in current issues such as climate change, border politics, trans-sexuality and mass surveillance.
We have travelled only a tiny part of an extremely varied journey, mentioning just a few of the numerous events that enlivened Sónar and Sónar+D. Three intense days, then, of shows, presentations, installations and opportunities for exchange with professionals from various sectors, in an event which has exceeded the limits of its duration and offered tools for the conception and achievement of future objectives. We area talking about an experience which, in the most innovative context imaginable, acknowledges creativity as enormously powerful, the matter with which to shape the future because – returning to Eno’s visionary words – culture is the “lubricant of social evolution”.
Sónar Festival and Sónar + D. Please visit here the website to be updated on it prolonging in the various editions that will take place around the world, waiting from the new edition in Barcelona in 2017.
images (cover 1) Sonar+D – Katecrawford, staged. Albaru Perez (2) Sonar+D – Asis Gonzalez (3) Sonar+D (4) Brian Eno – complex, sonar2016. Bianca Devilar (5) Alvanoto – Complex, sonar2016. Ariel Martini (6) Sonar+D, Datastramers. The Timekeeper, photo by Barrut (7) Sonar+D – bonus, realities. Barrut(8) Sonar+D – Bianca Devilar (9) kode9 – hall_sonar2016. Ariel Martini.